Conservation Area: Dunster Conservation Area

Authority Exmoor National Park Authority
Date assigned 01 January 1973
Date last amended 01 January 2018
Date revoked
Dunster is one of largest villages within the National Park with a parish population of 848 in 1991. It is designated an Outstanding Heritage Settlement in the Somerset and Exmoor Joint Structure Plan and straddles the A396 Minehead to Tiverton road close to its junction with the A39. Dunster has a unique setting dominated by its castle and wooded hillsides to the south and west and by Conygar Tower and more distant views of the Bristol Channel and Quantock Hills to the north and east. Both castle and tower are visible on their respective summits from miles around, providing a natural draw to visitors. The tourist industry is a mainstay of the local economy and increasingly extends well beyond the normal summer season. Dunster is regarded as one of the finest examples of a medieval settlement in the country. Pevsner, in the “Buildings of England” series describes Dunster as “unsurpassed in Somerset amongst small towns.” It has a distinguished history, which merits close scrutiny. In the Domesday survey (1086 AD) the manor is “Dunestorre,” probably derived from Celtic dun, a fort, and Celtic/Old English tor, a rock or peak. There are earthworks of Iron Age settlement (c.250-50 BC) at Bat’s Castle in Dunster Park, and to a lesser extent at Black Ball nearby. Saxon settlement of the area dates from c.750 AD and fortification of the hill on which the castle stands could date from the early 10th century. Eadward the Elder built defences against the Norsemen who held the Holm islands in the Bristol Channel and the port of Swansea. There was already an estate when the Saxon owner Alruic was dispossessed at the Conquest and the manor held for Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, by William de Mohun who was said to be “of a very eminent and ancient family in Normandy.”

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Grid reference Centred SS 9901 4372 (1120m by 1286m) ENPA
Map sheet SS94SE

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